A sarcoma is a type of cancer that develops from certain tissues, like bone or muscle. Bone and soft tissue sarcomas are the main types of sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcomas can develop from soft tissues like fat, muscle, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues. They can be found in any part of the body. Most of them develop in the arms or legs. They can also be found in the trunk, head and neck area, internal organs, and the area in back of the abdominal cavity (known as the retroperitoneum). Sarcomas are not common tumors, and most cancers are the type of tumors called carcinomas.
Sarcomas that most often start in bones, such as osteosarcomas, and sarcomas that more often occur in children, such as the Ewing Family of Tumors and Rhabdomyosarcoma, are discussed separately
Symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma
- Pain - the most obvious symptom. Once the tumor affects local tissues, nerves, or muscles, it can be felt as pain in the general area.
- Inflammation - the tumor grows and eventually affects the area with inflammation and swelling.
- Location specific symptoms - inability to move limbs properly (if the sarcoma is on the arms or legs for example) and other impairments depending on the location.
Types of sarcoma
- Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma: previously known as malignant fibrous histiocytoma - this tumor is most often found in the arms or legs but sometimes at the back of the abdomen.
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST): this affects specialized neuromuscular cells of the gut.
- Liposarcoma: sarcoma of fat tissue.
- Leiomyosarcoma: affects smooth muscle in organ walls.
- Synovial sarcomas: these are usually found around a joint in the arms or legs.
- Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor: also known as neurofibrosarcoma, it affects the protective lining of the nerves.
- Rhabdomyosarcoma: this forms in muscle and is a childhood cancer. While rare overall, it is a relatively common tumor in children.
- Angiosarcomas: these develop in the cells of the blood or lymph vessels.
- Fibrosarcomas: sarcomas that usually form in the limbs or on the trunk, forming from fibroblasts, the most common cell type in connective tissue.
Benign soft tissue tumors
- Elastofibromas: benign tumors of fibrous tissue
- Fibromas: benign tumors of fibrous tissue
- Fibrous histiocytomas: benign tumors of fibrous tissue
- Glomus tumors: benign tumors that occur near blood vessels
- Granular cell tumors: usually benign tumors in adults that occur often in the tongue but can be found almost anywhere in the body.
- Hemangiomas: benign tumors of blood vessels
- Hibernomas: benign tumors of fat tissue
- Lipomas: very common benign tumors of fat tissue
- Leiomyomas: benign tumors of smooth muscle that can be found anywhere in the body but are very common in the walls of the uterus where they are known as fibroids.
- Lipoblastomas: benign fat tissue tumors most often seen in children
- Lymphangiomas: benign tumors of lymph vessels
- Myxomas: benign tumors that usually are located in muscles but do not start from muscle cells
- Neurofibromas: tumors of nerve tissue that are usually benign. Neurofibromas of large nerves, such as those in the upper arms or neck can become cancerous. Neurofibromas are very common in people with an inherited condition called neurofibromatosis (also called von Recklinghausen disease), and are much less common in people without this condition.
- Neuromas: benign tumors of nerves that can be painful
- PEComas: a family of tumors made up of abnormal cells called perivascular epithelial cells. Although most of these tumors are benign, some rare PEComas are malignant (cancer). The most common of these tumors are angiomyolipoma and lymphangioleiomyoma. Angiomyolipoma is a benign tumor that most often affects the kidney. Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a rare disease of women in which the many lymphangioleiomyoma tumors grow into the lung tissue and interfere with lung function.
- Rhabdomyomas: benign tumors of skeletal and heart muscle
- Schwannomas (neurilemmomas): benign tumors of the cells that coat nerves
- Tenosynovial giant cell tumors (also called nodular tenosynovitis): benign tumors of joint tissue